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Date: 2022-07-04 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00008755


Terror, Torture and an Inconvenient Truth


Peter Burgess

Terror, Torture and an Inconvenient Truth


Outdoing the terrorists and trying to beat them at their own game was the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld strategy. But it has failed miserably—we've lost two wars and are in a third war that we can't win.

Fans of Andy Borowitz know that he has a particular genius for skewering pompous politicians who lie for a living. His recent piece on Ted Cruz (“Cruz: Stop Blaming Bush for the Things He Did,” The New Yorker, December 11, 2015) was a classic. What prompted it was the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

The executive summary of that report revisits perhaps the most shameful chapter in American history since the debacle in Vietnam and the My Lai massacre. It details how our government ordered a global roundup of suspected terrorists, detained them at various “black sites” with no right of habeas corpus, and sanctioned the use of torture to extract information.

The Borowitz piece points directly to a big lie the extreme right is peddling – that George W. Bush is not to blame for our disastrous post-9-11 foreign policy. George Bush did not act alone, to be sure, but he deserves the all opprobrium that History will surely heap upon him.

Still, we know he was not the chief architect of the war on terror because as president he amply demonstrated the limits of his intellect and imagination. No, the blame for the putting CIA and DOD in charge of U.S. foreign policy and sidelining the State Department belongs to the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

A few days ago Cheney went on national television and asserted that the Senate’s report is “just a flat out lie”. And that, my fellow Americans, is the very definition of chutzpah.

If anybody knows about flat out lying, it’s Cheney. A deceitful deceiver like Dick Cheney can literally suck the oxygen out of a room. In his presence, people with a conscience can’t breathe.

Ted Cruz appears to be cut from the same cloth.

Here’s what Cheney (a war criminal even more blameworthy than the clueless man-child who occupied the Oval Office) said last Wednesday on Fox News about the use of torture when the interviewer suggested that “Dubya” was kept in the dark:

“Not true. Didn’t happen,” Cheney responded. “Read his book, he talks about it extensively in his memoirs. He was in fact an integral part of the program, he had to approve it before we went forward with it.”

Asked if there was ever a point where he knew more about the CIA’s activity than the President, Cheney said “I think he knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program.”

The [Senate Intelligence Committee] report — which Cheney called “full of crap” — described brutal interrogation methods including waterboarding, extensive sleep deprivation, threats to harm detainees’ families and “rectal feeding.” …asked if the former President knew about the “details” of the program [Cheney commented]:”I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques,” Cheney said. “There was no effort on our part to keep him from that.”

“The notion that the committee’s trying to peddle, that somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis, and we weren’t being told or the President wasn’t being told, is just a flat out lie.”

Such dishonesty cries out for the lacerating wit and insight of satirists like Borowitz. Satire is part comedy and part tragedy. Good satire makes us smile in spite of ourselves – in spite of the outrages and injustices it feeds on. The very best satire demands reflection and in some cases remorse.

If ever there’s a time for a nation to reflect on the meaning of the war on terror and the magnitude of the crimes against humanity it has occasioned on both sides, Christmas is that time. We are that nation.

We can’t atone for the horrific crimes of Al Qaeda or ISIS or Hezbollah or Hamas or Boko Haram. Nor can stop them from killing innocent people despite all the blood and treasure we have poured into the effort for over a decade. They will continue to bring shame upon Islam and cast decent Muslims into disrepute in the eyes of the world. That is what they do.

What we can do is stop doing what they do. Stop imitating them. Stop trying to prove that we can be more barbaric than they are.

Outdoing the terrorists – beating them at their own game – was the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld strategy. It has failed miserably. We have lost two wars fought in the name of a third war that we can’t win. In the process we have lost our way, forgotten who we are, and abandoned the principles that distinguish us from them.

Come to think of it, maybe Ted Cruz is right. Maybe we ought to stop blaming Bush for the things he did. Maybe we need to blame ourselves for electing him – twice.

And maybe those of us who didn’t vote for him need to pledge never to let it happen again.

Authors Thomas Magstadt Bio: Thomas Magstadt earned his Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies. He is the author of 'An Empire If You Can Keep It: Power and Principle in American Foreign Policy,' 'Understanding Politics: Ideas, Institutions and Issues,' and 'Nations and Governments: Comparative Politics in Regional Perspective.' He was a regular contributor to the Prague Post in 1998-99 and has published widely in newspapers, magazines and journals in the United States. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the Czech Republic in the mid-1990s and a visiting professor at the Air War College in 1990-92. He has taught at several universities, chaired two political science departments, and also did a stint as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. He is a member of the board of the International Relations Council of Kansas City. Now working mainly as a free-lance writer, he lives in Westwood Hills, Kansas.

Authors: Thomas Magstadt | NationofChange | Op-Ed
Published: December 16, 2014
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